See Also: A Quiet Passion, for which I wrote: “Spoiler alert for a Terence Davies movie: her heart is full of poetry and yearning but her adult/love life doesn’t turn out very happily.”

Siegfried “Vidal” Sassoon is a sensitive soul, deeply marked by the war, witty and strong-minded but sweet, who has affairs with a string of bitchy bitter young men, and finally grows into a bitchy bitter old man himself. Jack Lowden (friendly lawyer of Mangrove) is brilliant as younger Sassoon. Feels like a large movie for Davies, more characters and stock footage and party scenes and time periods than usual. The well-done morphing effect is back. The other fine actors included Simon Beale (husband of Deep Blue Sea), Jeremy Irvine (star of War Horse), Gemma Jones (Oliver Reed’s eventual wife in The Devils).

With a new Downton Abbey movie out, it’s really time we rewatch Gosford Park, which also featured Ivor Novello as a character. Stephen Tennant is mainly shown wearing colorful scarves, but after visiting his wiki page, I resent the movie not mentioning that Tennant’s stepdad Lord Grey was a bird lover whose older brother was the namesake for Earl Grey tea. Sassoon’s son George taking an interest in UFOs in the 1970’s and writing “The Radio Hacker’s Codebook” in the 90’s are just more reasons this movie needs a sequel – all these would’ve been cooler codas than Sassoon aging into Peter Capaldi, converting to catholicism in the 1960’s and being horrible to family and friends.

My first movie at the Landmark Midtown Art since Portrait of a Lady on Fire in early 2020. Glad to see some things haven’t changed (audio bleed through thin walls, indifferent projection quality) and some things have (they’ve stopped labeling which movie is on which screen, the lobby seems more haunted).

Camille is home during WWI waiting for her man, and when he sends a letter telling her to stop writing, she cuts her hair short and sneaks out of town, hoping to blend in with soldiers while tracking him down. She joins an increasingly suspicious troop company – turns out they’re deserters heading to the Belgian border, and they have a habit of pulling out makeshift instruments and singing a continuing song about a blind girl. The men get sick and fall in holes and hide in caves, she helps by killing a lookout guard, she admits her name is Camille but they continue thinking she’s a boy, somehow.

I was right to think this would pair well with A Very Long Engagement. She is Sylvie Testud (in Vengeance, stars in La Captive) and her man, who appears at the end, is Guillaume Depardieu (the same year he was very good in Don’t Touch the Axe). A European Barn Owl can be seen – and heard – towards the end, which gains the movie an automatic half star, but it doesn’t need to kiss up to me with owls, I was already charmed. On letterboxd it looks like nobody loved this, so now I guess I’ve gotta see his other features, which nobody also loved.

This was the end of a successful Cannes Fortnight, in which I watched a bunch of movies I’d never seen by directors who had new work premiering at Cannes: Serge Bozon, the Dardennes, Claire Denis, Hlynur Pálmason, Cristian Mungiu, George Miller, Sergei Loznitsa, Jerzy Skolimowski, and David Cronenberg.

First movie watched in 2022. I’d seen this before, but ages ago. Opens with voiceover and archival footage of mustacheless Chaplin directing. He makes fun of Edna, then introduces three classic shorts with new music.


A Dog’s Life (1918)

The Tramp kicks some cops’ asses, and fails to land a job. He gets robbed in a bar, and the proprietor responds by throwing him out – so much injustice in this movie. The bit with sausage-seller Syd is real good, as is the thief-puppeteering of Albert Austin.


Soldier Arms (1918)

He’s actually a war hero in this one, until it turns out to all have been a dream while exhausted during basic training, but for a while there Charlie had his own Inglorious Basterds, capturing the Kaiser along with a mustachioed Edna.

In disguise:


The Pilgrim (1923)

Plays the same cowboy song thrice – again he’s sort of a hero, again with a sort-of downer ending, the bet-hedging version of the better previous film. CC’s a prisoner on the run, stealing an Edward Norton-looking chaplain’s clothes. He gets the hell out of town, and the place where he lands was expecting a new minister, so he’s given lodging with a family with lovely daughter Edna. Runtime is padded when a horrible family comes to visit. More coincidences, sure why not, CC’s ex cellmate is in town and recognizes him, and Edna’s mom keeps a large amount of cash laying around. Criminal CC preventing his own partner in crime from robbing the girls he likes, somewhat ripped from His Regeneration in the Essanay days.

Awful Family feat. Syd Chaplin:

Movie opens with “uncle” yelling at unseen hole diggers, then a boy with a (comically? horribly? we don’t know yet) hoarse voice comes out and curses into the camera. For maybe a decade I’ve been half-meaning to watch this movie because it’s supposed to be great, then avoiding it since it’s a horrors-of-war through eyes-of-a-child story. Turns out it’s not the depressing slog I imagined, but has big Emir Kusturica energy, hardly ever stops being amazing even when it starts being completely brutal. Let’s keep avoiding Son of Saul for the time being, though.

Our boy Fliora finds a gun, so is allowed to leave his family and join the Belorussian soldiers in WWII – then he’s ordered to swap his good boots for an older soldier’s, and gets left behind. No fighting yet, already a good amount of crying. He soon teams up with older Glasha and they dodge bombings and forge minefields and swamps, as Fliora and Glasha become ever-more traumatized by their experiences. We get the post-bombing tinnitus sound – I didn’t think they were doing that in the 1980’s. The explosions in this movie look unlike normal war-movie explosions – they look dangerous! It’s an angry movie, also bringing to mind Hard To Be a God, and gets extremely brutal as it goes on.

Bird Content: Fliora stomps on a nest full of eggs (boo), but later a beautiful stork looks in on our heroes (yay).

Mark Le Fanu for Criterion:

The film’s working title, before it turned into the biblical exhortation Come and See, was Kill Hitler. Klimov was always careful to explain in interviews that this was not to be taken in its literal meaning but rather as referring to a sort of universal moral imperative: “Kill the Hitler that lurks potentially in all of us!”

Klimov was married to Larisa Shepitko, whose films I’d very much like to see. Cinematographer Aleksey Rodionov would later work with Sally Potter. Lead kid Aleksey Kravchenko kept acting, was recently in The Painted Bird. Filmed in Belarus, which was in the news for arresting dissidents the morning after I watched this.

A rah-rah-war movie in which an apparent simpleton with amazing gun skills (Gary Cooper) falls for a pretty girl (Joan Leslie), wins a turkey shooting contest, gets screwed out of some land he wants to buy, gets hit by lightning, and is convinced by his pastor (Walter Brennan) to chill out on the drinking. Then the army comes calling, and tricks poor Gary into believing that the bible justifies killing for your country, so Gary goes off to war and captures a whole flock of enemy troops.

Not that we didn’t enjoy watching Cooper mow down Germans. It’s a well-paced movie full of fun characters, which makes up for Cooper, who is very bad at playing drunk and speaking with hick accents.

Playing Coop’s serious little brother, Dickie Moore’s child-actor career was winding down while Joan Leslie’s was just taking off. York’s barely-seen sister June Lockhart went on to be an anti-war activist, then appear in C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud. All three were the same age, less than half of Cooper’s.

Dickie:

Joan:

Such a tame world war, such bloodless sword battles
Opens with portentious voiceover
First feature film by Jenkins since her award-winning Monster

Honestly, those are the notes I took after watching this and now, a few weeks later, I have nothing to add. Gadot is pretty neat. The movie has enough cool looking scenes to put together a three-minute sizzle reel. Hope I don’t get talked into seeing Justice League.

It turns out that it wasn’t watching the movie The Lost City of Z that satisfied me, so much as the quest to watch the movie The Lost City of Z, the confident hope that The Lost City of Z would be a great movie, based on the reviews of my James Gray-obsessed film critics. The movie itself – it’s okay, a quest picture where a determined Charlie Hunnam neglects his family to search repeatedly for Z, stopping only for WWI and to raise funds to return to his quest, eventually aging to the point where his oldest son can join him – then they both disappear forever, having either found their destination or been murdered by cannibals.

D. Kasman:

Fawcett … insists that this city, which he dubs “Zed,” not only exists, but that it represents a corrective to the very society whose recognition and acclaim he had once so passionately sought … Because Gray shows only the barest traces of what his protagonist discovers in the jungle, one is unable to precisely define how Z comes to assume such majestic proportions in Fawcett’s mind. Originating as a self-interested means to escape from the restrictive prejudices of English society, his search for Z increasingly comes to seem like a quixotic attempt to discover a greater, purer form of human dignity…

Rob Pattinson is very good as Hunnam’s loyal co-adventurer, Angus Macfadyen is irritating as an awful man who joins one mission then quits and sues, and barely in the movie are Hunnam wife Sienna Miller (upper-floor temptress of High-Rise) and son Tom Holland (the latest Spider-Man). The forest and the river and the light are all lovely, and I loved a match-cut from colored liquid seeping in a line to a train moving in the same direction… and the final shot of Miller leaving the National Geographic Society having received mixed news about her lost husband and walking out into the jungle.

Gray: “How do you take the classical form and do something with it? The last twenty minutes, something starts to break down in the film.”

N. Bahadur:

Where Lost City of Z becomes truly special for me … is within its final thirty minutes, where he starts to free himself from narratological function and let his formal syntax do the work – it’s a big step for him I think, because I believe it allows him to drive even closer to something idiosyncratic and distinctive – for most of the runtime it is a decent film, with some ok ideas, just like any other film… but suddenly, if just for a few minutes, we enter the realm of a visionary.

Starring the lovely, ever-suffering Agyness Deyn, who recently played Aphrodite, as Chris. It’s more recognizably a Davies movie than The Deep Blue Sea was, because it centers around a piece of shit domineering father (Peter Mullan of War Horse, Children of Men) for the first half, then he’s dead (a la Distant Voices, Still Lives) so we focus on a husband Ewan (Kevin Guthrie) who might become a piece of shit domineering father – but doesn’t, because he’s shot for cowardice while at war. Opens with Chris’s mom poisoning herself and her young twins because she’s become pregnant again. So it’s basically a domestic horror movie.

Beautiful lighting, and per Davies tradition, some terrific crossfades. I turned on the subtitles half the time to make out the accents… and even then I sometimes have trouble. “I’m going to live on at Blawearie a while and not roup the gear at once. Could you see to that with the factor?”

I’m on M. D’Angelo’s side here, and I’ll add that the juxtaposition mentioned below was already done very well in Distant Voices, Still Lives:

Whatever Gibbons’ novel means to Davies — and it must mean a lot, as he reportedly spent many years struggling to get this film made — it doesn’t come across, except perhaps in the occasional juxtaposition of brutality and joyous group song. A few stray moments of piercing beauty toward the end (which also complicate what had previously seemed like the tediously downbeat trajectory of Chris’ marriage) can’t redeem the unrewarding slog that precedes them.

As far as beautifully shot but disappointing Davies films I watched this year go, I preferred The Deep Blue Sea, and as far as films I watched this month where soldiers get shot for cowardice in World War One, I’ll take Paths of Glory.

Always difficult to adapt poetry to the screen, so including words from the book as narration is nice. “So that was her marriage – not like waking from a dream, but like going into one. And she wasn’t sure, not for days, what things she had dreamt and what actually done.” Previously filmed as a 1971 miniseries, by the same director who shot Testament of Youth, which was also remade last year.

This is France, but we’re not bothering with subtitles or even accents, because those hadn’t been invented yet in the 1950’s. WWI, fighting against Germany, with rightly celebrated tracking shots through the trenches, from the clueless higher-ups patrolling the men they know nothing about, to the middleman Major Kirk Douglas, a serious star some five years after The Big Sky. Posh general Adolphe Menjou (in one of his final films) has pressured scar-faced general George Macready (evil older husband of Gilda) into commanding an attack to capture a hill in exchange for a promotion. The attack will be a huge failure, killing hundreds of men. Two higher-ups (Gen. George and Lt. Roget) will act supremely dishonorably, the former by sending men to die in a pointless and poorly-planned maneuver and ordering fire upon his own troops, the latter by personally killing a subordinate with a grenade in a cowardly moment. But both will get off without punishment, instead picking three soldier representatives to die by firing squad for the operation’s failure, futilely defended in military court by Kirk.

Three dead men: Paris (Kiss Me Deadly star Ralph Meeker) because he’s the only witness to Lt. Roget’s murder of a soldier, Ferol (Timothy Carey, who doesn’t fit in with the rest of the movie, but it’s wonderful) and Arnaud (Lloyd the Bartender from The Shining), who had a great pre-fight speech about death vs. pain, and gets knocked down by Ferol in their holding cell and has to be executed while unconscious on a stretcher.

I thought of it as a powerful anti-war film (with a different approach to the insanity of war than Dr. Strangelove), but Gary Giddins’s commentary says it’s not exactly anti-war, but “about power, class, manipulation and the absurdity of war as a continuation of those civilian instincts.” He also says the pre-battle politicking between officers isn’t in the source novel.

The Future Mrs. Kubrick:

Menjou at Marienbad:

J. Naremore:

Kubrick is especially good at drawing sharp visual and aural contrasts between the château where the generals plan the war and the trenches where the war is fought. The Schleissheim Palace outside Munich, where much of the action takes place, later became a location for another film that depicts upper-class intrigues amid the architecture of a decadent past – Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad – and the opening sequence in the palace interior, where Adolphe Menjou suavely manipulates the ramrod stiff but insecure George Macready, was influenced by one of Kubrick’s favorite directors, Max Ophuls, who had died on the day it was staged.